Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Andre Gordon | Don't kill the ganja goose

Published:Monday | May 16, 2016 | 5:00 AM
Andre Gordon
1
2

It was with a sense of fulfilment and great pride that I heard that the regulations to govern the cannabis industries had been sent to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel by the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) a few weeks ago.

As the former chairman of the CLA who guided the preparation of these regulations and the development of the supporting framework under which they are intended to operate, one wants to see one's work come to fruition in the manner intended and to the benefit of the nation as a whole.

While the impatience of the persons with interests in the business of cannabis (ganja and hemp) is understandable, it was incumbent on the CLA to take the necessary care and move with deliberate but studied haste to deliver regulations that would allow the industry to develop in a manner that is fully compliant of our international obligations, but will also allow all parties that have an interest to benefit from the legal ganja industry.

We were particularly mindful of those who had sacrificed and, indeed, been persecuted for many years to make this opportunity possible, as well as the many communities around the country that could gain substantial economic benefit, if this industry was developed carefully and in a manner that leveraged and protected Brand Jamaica.

 

MANY THANKS

 

I thank my fellow board members who worked really hard and applied all of their legal and professional skills and industry knowledge to create these regulations in record time, no other jurisdiction having been able to do what we did in one year in less than two.

If you are so minded, I will, in a future letter, lay out the real possibilities and a vision for what Jamaica could be with a properly developed ganja and hemp industry.

Today, however, I write to seek clarification as to the direction in which we are going with this new and very delicately poised sector. It is indeed quite pleasing to hear the importance which the new Government places on the sector, as epitomised by the time devoted to it in the minister of finance's Budget presentation. I am assuming that this will be backed by the requisite budgetary resources to ensure that the vision he articulated can become a reality.

To move the industry forward in a manner that allows Jamaica to take full advantage of current and future trends in the medicinal marijuana industry, we must be vigilant and ensure that we remain fully compliant with our laws and regulations.

We must, therefore, move quickly to sort out any issues where there appears to be overlapping jurisdiction regarding the cannabis sector. In this regard, while both the University of Technology (UTech) and the University of the West Indies, as well as Northern Caribbean University, are to be commended for their work on and interest in ganja, the terms and nature of their involvement should be clear to all stakeholders.

 

THE MATTER OF LICENSING

 

The excellent reportage of work being done by UTech, as presented recently is a step in the right direction and also to be commended. Of concern for me, though, was talk (supported by posters and other communication) of "licences" issued by the Ministry of Science and "sublicences" awarded to contractors to grow ganja. Under whose jurisdiction is this and who has control of the drug (which it remains) that is being grown? Where is it being grown and under whose supervision? How is the transportation, handling, possession and display of ganja and ganja products which were present at this event brought within the sphere of legality? Under which statute, licence, order or authorisation?

Sir, we have to recognise that Jamaica does not live in a bubble. What we say, what we do, how we act are under constant scrutiny. One need only scan the Internet for the myriad of articles and postings about what we are doing with ganja here in Jamaica. The world is watching. And because of our reputation, maybe we won't be so lucky as to have any missteps, should they occur, overlooked.

While I fully support the work being done by the universities and many private individuals with excellent knowledge of the plant and the sector, all concerned need to be very, very careful that in our haste to profit, we don't kill the goose that maybe, just maybe, can lay the golden egg.

- Andre Gordon, PhD, is managing director of Technological Solutions Ltd. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and andre.gordon@tsltech.com.